Htin Kyaw Confirmed as Next President in History-Making Vote

By The Irrawaddy 15 March 2016

RANGOON — The Union Parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of National League for Democracy (NLD) nominee Htin Kyaw as Burma’s next president, confirming the 69-year-old’s improbable rise to the country’s highest elected office less than a week after the party put his name forward for the post.

The executive committee member of an Aung San Suu Kyi-led foundation earned 360 out of a total 652 votes in the Tuesday morning legislative session, with lawmakers bursting into applause when his final tally was announced. Myint Swe, the military’s candidate for the role, received 213 votes, while NLD Upper House nominee Henry Van Thio, an ethnic Chin lawmaker, won 79.

Myint Swe and Van Thio will serve as vice president Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in an executive trio led by Htin Kyaw, who had been expected to win the final parliamentary vote since his nomination by the Lower House on March 10.

All three candidates were deemed eligible for the presidency after passing a parliamentary scrutinizing body’s vetting process, the findings of which were presented by Union Parliament Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than on Monday. The seven-member body was made up of the Upper and Lower houses’ speakers and their deputies, two other NLD lawmakers and one military representative.

Maj-Gen Than Soe, the army’s delegate to the committee, had objected to the NLD’s nomination of both Htin Kyaw and Henry Van Thio on the grounds that Htin Kyaw was not an elected lawmaker, and that Henry Van Thio had spent an extended period of time outside of Burma with his family, and thus might not meet the qualifications to hold an executive role.

The scrutinizing body, however, overrode those concerns, as well as those regarding Myint Swe, whose son, once an Australian national, would appear to have given up his foreign citizenship so that it would not hinder his father’s presidential ambitions.

Article 59(f) of Burma’s controversial 2008 Constitution bars anyone with a foreign spouse or children from serving as president. This clause has kept NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi from the role, as her sons hold British citizenship.

Suu Kyi has all but declared Htin Kyaw a proxy for an incoming government in which she will call the shots.

The new government takes power April 1, with formation of the Htin Kyaw cabinet to come ahead of that date.

Htin Kyaw is set to become Burma’s first democratically elected president from a civilian background in more than five decades.